You have probably heard that the best way to cook a brisket is low and slow. Methods of checking for doneness include the probe test and monitoring the internal temperature. Once a probe slides in like butter or the internal temperature reaches between 180 and 200 F, your brisket can be pulled from the grill.
While this is great information, it doesn’t really help you determine how long the smoking or grilling process will take from start to finish. If you are trying to serve your guests at a specific time, it is most useful to know how long to smoke a brisket per pound. This article will help you calculate the cooking time for a brisket.
How Long to Smoke a Brisket Per Pound
How many hours per pound to smoke a brisket depends on the temperature of your smoker and the size and weight of the meat. In general, if smoking a brisket at 225, 1.5 to two hours per pound should get you juicy and tender results.
How Many Hours Per Pound to Smoke a Brisket
Hours-per-pound is a good rule of thumb for calculating how long to smoke a brisket, but it is not a hard and fast rule. The amount of cooking time per pound depends on a few factors but primarily on the cooking method and temperature. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours per pound.
To get a rough idea of how many hours to allow for preparing a brisket, we recommend following these guidelines. At 225 F, smoking a brisket takes about 1.5 to two hours per pound. At 250 F, it takes one to 1.5 hours per pound. At 300 F, it takes 30-45 minutes per pound.
That means a 12-pound brisket will take about 18 hours to cook at a temperature of 225 F and about 12 hours to cook at a temperature of 250 F. This gives you a rough idea, but be sure to allow extra time in case it takes longer than expected, and don’t forget to leave time for it to rest after it’s done.
Other Factors to Consider
The cooking temperature is not the only factor to consider. The size of the brisket should also be taken into account. The larger the brisket, the longer it will take to cook per pound because the heat takes more time to penetrate to the center of the beef.
Taking the meat out early and bringing it to room temperature can help shorten the cooking time. Another way to speed up the cooking process is to wrap it in foil or butcher paper. A 10 to 12-pound brisket will take from seven to nine hours to fully cook on a grill when wrapped in foil.
The cooking method and the type of smoker also impact the cooking time per pound. Every smoker type is unique, so you might need to use a trial and error method until you get to know your particular equipment.
Electric and gas smokers have consistent temperatures making it easier to predict cooking time per pound than for pit or barrel smokers. Keeping the lid closed contains heat and shortens the cooking time.
Other variables that affect the cooking time per pound are the thickness of the meat, the amount of fat, outside temperature, wind, humidity, the grade of the meat, and the composition of the meat tissue.
On a cold, windy evening, a brisket can take more than two hours per pound to cook. A higher grade of brisket that has more marbling and fat usually will cook more quickly than a lower grade.
Cooking brisket in the oven takes about one hour per pound. For good results, put it in a covered roasting pan with some liquid and set the temperature between 250 and 325 F. The cooking time per pound varies depending on the weight of the brisket.
Simmering it on a stovetop takes less time. A 10 to 12-pound brisket will cook in about five hours on a stovetop.
Fat Side Up or Down?
Whether you cook a brisket fat side up or down probably won’t affect the cooking time. Putting the fat side up is the more common choice. This is best if the heat source is coming from above the meat because the fat will help tenderize the meat.
Fat side down is preferred when the heat comes from below. In this case, the fat prevents the meat from sticking to the grate, and the bark will be crispier.
How Long to Cook a Small Brisket?
If you are cooking a small cut brisket that weighs just a few pounds, it won’t take nearly as long. In fact, you will want to check it frequently to be sure you don’t overcook it and dry it out.
Ways to Shorten the Cooking Time
If you are in a hurry and can’t wait all day for your brisket to be done, there are some things you can try to speed up the process. The most tempting way to move things along is to increase the temperature. At 300 F, your brisket will cook in much less time, but you risk ending up with a drier and less tasty end product.
You might also use the Texas crutch method to get through the stall faster. This involves taking the brisket off the grill when the internal temperature stalls at around 150 F, wrapping it in foil or pink butcher paper, and returning it to the smoker for several more hours of cooking.
Aluminum foil shortens the cooking time more than butcher paper does, but butcher paper is better for preserving the crisp bark because it is more porous. Wrapping the meat with this method can reduce the cooking time to about 45 minutes per pound without compromising on the smoky flavor and the bark.
Transferring your brisket to the oven to finish the cooking is another way to speed things up. Some purists frown on this, but it should not have much of an impact on the flavor.
Finally, you might want to abandon the whole low and slow method entirely and try a completely different approach. The hot and fast method does come with its challenges, so it’s important to know the right way to do it.
For starters, you should preheat your smoker to 350 F, and put the brisket fat side down in order to prevent burning the bottom. Wrap the brisket in foil when it reaches an internal temperature of 170 F. Put it back on the smoker, fat side up. Continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 203 F.
Even at 203 F, it might not be tender enough, so do check it with a probe before pulling it from the grill. It might need a bit more time. Although the end results might not be quite as amazing as with the low and slow method, hot and fast will have you sitting down to eat in about half the time.
Keep in mind that opening the lid of the smoker frequently will cause the grill temperature to fluctuate and interfere with the cooking. A probe with an external monitor allows you to keep track of the internal temperature without opening the smoker.
Resting the brisket after it is done is a final step that adds to the total prep time for smoked brisket. Some people rest their brisket for a short time, but we recommend resting it for two to four hours. Wrap it in towels and place it in a warm cooler until the internal temperature cools to about 160 F.
How Long To Smoke a Brisket Per Pound: Breaking it Down By Size
This section will provide you with details on how long to smoke a brisket based on the size of the individual cut.
For the purposes of this breakdown, we’ve assumed a cooking temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit. If the smoker is running any hotter than that, or if it frequently dips below 225 due to adverse weather conditions, you’ll need to adjust the cooking times accordingly.
How Long to Smoke a 1.5 lb Brisket
Brisket cuts typically come in sizes that are much heavier than a pound or two. However, it’s possible to find pieces that weigh around 1.5 pounds after trimming, especially if you opt to carve the brisket into steaks.
A 1.5-pound cut of brisket should take around 2 hours to cook, perhaps a bit longer. At the 90-minute mark, test the brisket to see how it’s coming along. Don’t panic if it seems to be taking its time. The last thing you want is to crank the temperature and wind up with dry, leathery meat.
How Long to Smoke a 2 lb Brisket
A 2-pound brisket operates under similar rules. After all, it’s only fractionally larger than a 1.5-pounder. Plan on a cooking time of 3 to 3.5 hours, or slightly longer if you want a really tender brisket.
How Long to Smoke a 2.5 lb Brisket
When smoking a segment of the brisket that weighs in at 2.5 pounds, shoot for a 4-hour cooking time. Don’t be tempted to neglect the resting period. Even small cuts require this step, as it gives the proteins time to firm up again.
How Long to Smoke a 3 lb Brisket
You can expect a 3-pound brisket to take about 4 to 5 hours on the smoker. Remember that if it’s a portion of the point rather than the flat, it can cook to a higher internal temperature without drying out. This is due to the higher fat content in the point end. In fact, some chefs “overcook” the point on purpose when making burnt ends.
How Long To Smoke a 4 lb Brisket
At around the 6-hour mark, start probing the 4-pound brisket to find out if it’s reached the target temperature. Some briskets might be finished at this point, while others could need a little more time on the smoker.
How Long To Smoke a 5 lb Brisket
If you’re shopping specifically for a brisket flat, you’ll probably find one in the range of 6 to 10 pounds. After trimming, it’s not unusual to end up with just 5 pounds of raw meat, which should yield about 2.5 pounds once it’s cooked.
A 7- to 8-hour cooking time is standard for this size. Since the flat is leaner than the point, you’ll want to be careful to avoid overcooking it. As we mentioned, you don’t need to be quite as vigilant if you’re smoking a 5-pound brisket point.
How Long To Smoke a 8 lb Brisket
An 8-pound brisket should cook for 10 to 16 hours—sometimes a bit less if the smoker temperature is running high. Be sure to plan ahead so you can start checking the meat for doneness at around the 8-hour mark.
How Long To Smoke a 9 lb Brisket
Expect a cooking time of 12 to 18 hours for a 9-pound brisket. To be on the safe side, make sure to check the temperature at the 10-hour mark.
How Long To Smoke a 10 lb Brisket
Using the guideline of 90 minutes per pound, a 10-pound brisket should be done in about 15 hours. However, as we’ve pointed out, there’s no hard and fast rule, especially when you’re dealing with larger cuts.
For briskets weighing 10 pounds or more, give yourself a generous window of time. A 10-pounder might be finished in 10 hours, or it could stall multiple times and take 20 hours to hit the 200-degree mark. The temperature and texture of the brisket are more important than the numbers on the clock.
How Long To Smoke a 14 lb Brisket
As you start moving into double-digit territory, you can dial back the 90-minute-per-pound estimate. The brisket might still take this long (or even longer) to finish cooking, but we would recommend checking for doneness when it’s been on the smoker for about 1 hour and 15 minutes per pound.
For a 14-pound whole packer brisket, this point would arrive about 17.5 hours into the cook. This shouldn’t be the first time you’re testing the temperature of the brisket, but it’s more likely to pass the probe test at this point.
How Long To Smoke a 15 lb Brisket
If the brisket weighs 15 pounds after trimming, we would suggest doing the probe test at around 18 hours. Chances are it won’t be done yet, but it’s better to be sure. A brisket this large could take 24 hours to finish cooking.
How Long To Smoke a 16 lb Brisket
16-pound briskets require a huge time commitment. The good news is that most of that time is spent waiting for the smoker to do its work.
Give yourself a window of at least 24 hours when smoking a 16-pounder. If you’re entertaining and need the brisket to be finished at a certain time, err on the side of caution and start the smoker about 32 hours beforehand. Should the brisket finish cooking early, you can always hold it in a faux Cambro, or refrigerate it and reheat it later.
One final tip: If time is a factor, consider dividing larger whole packer briskets and smoking the point and flat separately. They’ll cook faster that way, and it will probably be easier to arrange them on the cooking grate as well.
What’s the Ideal Cooking Temperature for Brisket?
It’s preferable to smoke brisket at 225 degrees. Any lower, and the meat would take too long to get out of the danger zone. Smoking it at a higher temp would have an adverse effect on the texture and flavor.
Does the Wood Type Impact the Cooking Time?
It shouldn’t matter what type of wood you use to smoke the brisket. Wood pellets burn at more or less the same rate no matter what type of compressed hardwood goes into them. Although some wood chips might burn hotter than others, you’re not using enough of them to make a significant difference.
Should I Adjust the Cooking Time Based on the Type of Smoker I’m Using?
As long as the temperature holds steady, the brisket should cook at the same rate no matter what type of smoker you use.
How Does the Stall Affect the Cooking Time?
When the brisket cooks to about 150-170 degrees, the temp will hold steady for a bit. This is a normal part of the process called “the stall.” It can last for several hours, but the temperature will rise again eventually. Be sure to take this into account when planning.
Is it Better to Wrap in Foil or Butcher Paper?
Foil will speed things along, but butcher paper is more permeable and allows for stronger bark formation and improved smoke flavor. I prefer butcher paper for this reason, but foil helps to cut way down on the cooking time.
At What Temperature is Brisket Considered Done?
Cook the brisket to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit, then take it off the heat and let it rest. The internal temp will rise during the resting period, giving you an ideal serving temperature of 210 degrees.
Can You Tell When Brisket is Done Without Testing the Temperature?
The internal temperature provides the only fail-safe proof that the brisket is done cooking. But if you can insert the probe—or even a toothpick—into the meat and there’s no resistance, the meat is probably ready to come off the heat.
Do Larger Briskets Need to Rest Longer?
Yes. Smaller briskets might need only 30 to 45 minutes, while a 20-pound whole packer should rest for at least an hour.
Can I Smoke a Partially Frozen Brisket?
You can, but the cooking process will take even longer than it normally would. When you smoke meat from a frozen state, it can boost the total cooking time by as much as 50 percent.
While there is no definitive answer to the question of how long to smoke a brisket per pound, these guidelines can help you get a general idea of how long it will take to smoke a brisket from start to finish. Knowing how much time to allow will help to keep your guests from waiting too long for a delicious barbecue meal.